Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Tom Dodson on how an 'old' 2006 TP52 is still at the front of the fleet

Squeezing the Best from a 2006 Boat

by Event Media

Southern Spars director Tom Dodson is at the bedrock of the Mean Machine Valle Romano speed department. His laconic, laid back style belies his experience which spans decades but it is his natural eye for what generates boat speed from deck level and above which makes him a huge asset to the 2006 Breitling MedCup champions. Besides that, his skill and experience on the race course forms an exceptionally strong unit along with Ray Davies.

It was the tactical calls, and their precise execution, and not boat speed which won Mean Machine Valle Romano the Portugal Trophy in Portimao. Second in Alicante, first in Portugal, Mean Machine Valle Romano have been working their socks off to try and come back from the 50 points penalty which they were landed with in Portals after the coastal race.

Dodson reveals a few of the changes they made to the 2006 Rolf Vrolijk design, built by Hakes Marine of Wellington, as they attempt to squeeze out the last small percentages of performance: “We made a small modification basically to narrow the sheeting angle a little bit more just because we had noticed the difference between ours which is essentially a 2005 cabin top arrangement. The '06 and '07 set ups are a little more user friendly, I suppose you would say in terms of a getting different sheeting angles.

“My big issue from '06, was that I thought there was probably some elements of boat speed that we probably had a bit of an X-factor, that we maybe did not really understand and so I was pushing to make sure that we did not actually go backwards at all.

“I think that some had moved it up, come up with different trimming techniques, improvements, but maybe also the conditions this year have actually changed and we have been sailing in a little more wind, here and probably more seaway, so there is probably quite a lot changed.

“That is just in crossovers, in sheeting angles, and just depths of sails and twists and techniques going on out there, and ours was not winning.”

“We always like to start the season with Palma Vela and we won that with a race to spare, but there was not the full team there. We went to Alicante and did not have our Team New Zealand guys there but we probably did OK there coming away with a second. It felt like there that we were not second fastest, for sure in terms of boat speed, we really felt like we might be seventh in those terms, the boats in front being the new ones. And that has kind of shown out at Breitling and in Palma, and that is what we have addressed here, with how we make the best out of what we have.

“I think we have gained as much out of this boat as we can, which is why Peter has made the call to have a new boat. It would be fair to say that evening these races here, a lot of or performance here has come from making the right decision rather than boat speed. Last year we felt that we could hold or extend, this year we have felt we have had to hold or defend against the '07 boats coming through.

“I think it is exciting though. I haven't had this feeling since going way back through IOR and IMS ratings and optimizing the boats, now it is like going back to speaking about your Soling and one design days when you kind of step by stepped your speed.”

Breitling MedCup 2007

Mean Machine Valle Romano

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